“My
paramount object in this struggle is to save the Union,” Honest Abe
Lincoln wrote back in the middle of the Civil War. The paramount object
in the struggle to become leader of the NSW Labor Party and state
premier seems to be best summed up by the quote of opportunists through
the ages – “Fill yer boots!” Does that mean the bruvvers are giving up
on holding office at the 2007 state poll?

“Unknown Morris, unelectable Carl,” screams the Daily Telegraph
today. “The man who cut his teeth working for self-confessed liar and
fixer Graham Richardson is set to lead NSW within six days,” writes
political reporter Anna Patty about Morris Iemma.

Meanwhile, The Australian’s
reporting Carl Scully’s complaints about a “dirty trick” campaign being
run against him. “It appears the instigators come from inside Labor
headquarters and include members of his own right-wing faction.”

The SMH
had the lowdown yesterday: “While Mr Scully began the day with what
appeared to be a strong lead within his own powerful Right faction –
and with the support of the deputy premier, Andrew Refshauge – the
powerbrokers within the faction soon decided Bob Carr’s resignation
offered the chance for generational change. Right figures Eddie Obeid,
Joe Tripodi and Eric Roozendaal are believed to be backing Mr Iemma
over Mr Scully even though they all belong to the same sub faction,
known as the Terrigals. Late yesterday, Mr Obeid and Mr Tripodi met Mr
Scully in his office to tell him they were considering backing Mr
Iemma. Mr Scully, it is understood, told them he would run regardless.”

Tripodi
and Obeid are not known as pillars of probity. And they’re not natural
allies. If they’re getting into bed, there must be a deal somewhere.
The
question has to be asked – are the bruvvers lurching back into the
“make hay while the sun shines” mentality of the later days of Neville
Wran and the Unsworth years while they’re still in government? It could
be messy. Opportunism breeds corruption – and tolerance of the latter
is as much a crime as the deed itself.

Looking at NSW back in
the mid eighties, after Nick Greiner’s first bid to become premier, the
late Paddy O’Brien of the University of Western Australia wrote: “What
Greiner promised was not deals between big government, big unions and
big business, but a fair deal for consumers and users of private and
public goods, services and utilities… His radically democratic
approach impressed even those Liberal-hating journalists who had been
educated to believe that only Labor cared for the common man.” O’Brien
wrote of sleaze and corruption and a “boyish-looking” opposition leader.

John
Brogden is only 36, but he’s been in his job for three years. More and
more he’s sounding authoritative, rather than shrill – unlike too many
opposition leaders. Even before Carr’s resignation, Brogden looked like
the only state or territory Liberal leader with a chance of winning
government. If only the jihadists in his only party will behave, he’s
looking better and better.

Peter Fray

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